Here's chapter 2. Enjoy.
There's a sort of relationship in this world that's a bit unsavory, and that was the type of relationship that Aihara Chiaki and I shared. Since our houses were located close to each other, it was only natural for us to attend the same elementary school and middle school. But to top it all off, for nine consecutive years, we were also in the same class, and even managed to get into the same high school. There might be some that might attribute it to our intelligence being roughly the same, but the problem was we had both been assigned to the Third Class of First Year. What can I say, our unsavory ties run extremely deep.
"Isn't this great? I'm poor at Math and English, so I can copy Nao's notes; and Nao's not very good with sports, but I am. Let's help each other from now on." Not long after the end of the opening ceremony, Chiaki said that to me while slapping my back with a *papapa* sound. The smell of wax still lingered in our classroom. You're good at sports, but how are you gonna help me with that?
"This guy's impressive. When you open his front door, you'll be greeted by a mountain of CDs, and then they'll all come tumbling down."
"Wow, why is that? Is his house a music shop or something?"
"Why have you been to his house before?"
Using me as a stepping stone, Chiaki had quickly blended herself in with the rest of our female classmates, whom she had only met not too long ago. She and I were the only two ones from our middle school that had enrolled in this particular high school, so there wasn't a single person we were familiar with. Her adaptability is really scary.
"Hey, what's your relationship with her?"
A guy who was quite interested in me leaned over and asked that in a whisper.
"Eh? Ah, it's nothing, we just studied at the same middle school."
"But didn't you help her tie her bow-tie prior to the opening ceremony?" Another guy suddenly spoke up behind me, causing my face to turn green from shock. They saw?
"Urm...... Well, that's because......"
"Really!? Oh damn! Are you two a married couple!?"
"Isn't that the opposite of the typical situation? It should be the girl helping the guy!" They're picking that sort of difficult-to-explain situation as a conversation topic. Damn, I hate Chiaki for that. I had taught her many times already—at the very least, remember how to tie your bow-ties yourself!
"Have both of you been together since middle school?"
When I shook my head a few hundred times to fervently deny it, all the guys around me suddenly heaved a sigh of relief. They pulled me away from the girls and moved our group into a corner of the classroom, then began to talk in whispers.
"Aihara Chiaki's one the few top-graded goods in our class! That's just great."
"I originally thought I liked girls with long hair, but I realize now that I was wrong."
I listened to the guys' assessments with a dumbfounded expression on my face, then looked at Chiaki's profile as she sat on the table, chatting away at the other side of the classroom. Her hairstyle back in middle school used to be extremely short and parted down the center, which made her look really fierce. But after she had left her club in the autumn of our third year, she had begun growing out her hair. Now, her short hair looks prettier and more feminine. But wait, the problem is...... "That girl has a volatile temper and is a beginner dan in Judo as well. Don't you think it'd better if you guys stayed away from her?"
"She's in the Judo club? Should I join as well?"
"Do we have a Judo club here?"
"Even then, most Judo clubs split up the guys and the girls."
"Why must they be separated? They should allow everyone to practice prone techniques together!" [TLNote: 寝技 (ne-waza), techniques in Judo. Wiki to learn more]
Can you guys listen to what others have to say?
She was no longer practicing Judo because she had sustained a back injury last year; but at about the same time our enrollment into high school was confirmed, for some unknown reason, she began learning the drums. But in the past, she had zero interest in music, and she couldn't have started practicing the drums by herself, right? As for her reason for wanting to be a drummer, this is what Chiaki told me—
"Back during the new year, when the doctor told me I could no longer practice Judo, I drank a bit of beer out of desperation......" The underage shouldn't be drinking! "And when I fell asleep in my drunken state, Bonzo appeared in my dreams."
Bonzo was the drummer of Led Zeppelin; he died from suffocation when he inhaled his own vomit after puking in his drunken stupor. That doesn't sound very good. She didn't see his spirit in a state of near-death, right?
"And he said to me, 'All you have left is the drums.' Because Bonzo said that to me, I had no choice but to do it, right?"
"Was that really Bonzo?"
"I saw him continuously waving his hands at me as he stood in the flower fields near the riverside. It was Bonzo alright. His Japanese was really impressive too, though he spoke in Tsuguru dialect."
...... That was probably your deceased grandfather that had died last year.
It was only after entering high school that I came to know the real reason Chiaki started practicing the drums. Every day after school, she continuously pestered me about joining the Folk Music Research Club.
"But Nao has no other specialty other than music, right? Come on, just join us."
"You're meddling too much. Speaking of which, what's with the Folk-whatever thing? There's no such club, right?"
I tried remembering back on the introductory booklet of the school clubs—which I had received during the opening ceremony—and the parade of people waiting at the school gates to recruit new students into their respective clubs. I don't remember seeing a club with such a complicated name. And speaking of music, I'm only knowledgeable at listening......
"The so-called folk music actually refers to rock! If we openly call ourselves a rock band, however, the teachers would never approve it; and additionally, there's no way they'd approve the club if only Kagurazaka-senpai and I are in it. So please, join our club!"
So that's the reason for desperately trying to get me into the club huh......
"Stop trying to recruit me into a club that's not even established yet! And who's Kagurazaka-senpai?"
"An awesome and impressive person from the First Class of Second Year."
After a careful round of questioning, all the riddles were finally solved. It seemed that Chiaki had met that Kagurazaka person during summer last year; and her entering this high school via recommendations, and her reason to begin drumming—it was all because of this Kagurazaka-somebody. What a joke. I grabbed my bag and walked out of the classroom. All our classmates were focusing their attention on us as we had that conversation. It felt really embarrassing. Chiaki chased me and said, "Wait for me! What's wrong with joining the club? You have nothing else to do anyway, right?"
"Even if I have nothing to do, I won't join that club."
"Because...... I wouldn't stay long anyway."
I had originally wanted to say "I was dragged into Judo training by you, and I gave up in a short span of two weeks—you already know that." But I didn't say it in the end.
"Really? Then what do you plan to do in high school?"
Study—but obviously, I couldn't bring myself to respond with such an insincere but politically-correct answer.
"Isn't your life just boring then?"
So your life's really interesting huh?
"Why do you care about whether my life's boring or not?" I said that without much thought. Chiaki suddenly stopped in her tracks. When I turned my head around, I saw Chiaki shift her sight away from me and look slightly downwards. What's happening now?
Chiaki turned her head away and asked, "....... What do you think my reason is?" I had no idea how to reply to that.
"Because you're really free as well?"
Chiaki's hands reached out for the collar of my jacket, and before I could even think anything, my body had already spun in the air and my back was slammed against the floor of the corridor.
"...... Oww!" My eyes were filled with stars; and for a moment, I couldn't breathe. Despite that though, I tried standing up, using my hands to support myself against the wall.
"Stop with those random shoulder throws of yours, alright!?"
"That wasn't a shoulder throw. It was a body drop."
"That's not the problem here! Are you trying to kill me!?"
Chiaki stomped on my thigh, then turned around and left. What was all that about!?
My main reason for not joining a club was an extremely negative one, like "finding it all bothersome." But aside from that, I had another reason that could be considered more positive—I had found something to do after school.
After watching Chiaki leave, I went to the first floor and walked into a small courtyard past the school's back gates. Next to a rusty rubbish incinerator that hadn't been used in a long time, stood a long narrow building. It was shaped in a simple rectangle and made of cement, similar to the public toilets seen at the parks; and on the sides, there were several doors. Since it hadn't been used by anyone for quite a long time, the walls and doors of the building were covered with dirt, making it rather filthy. The private school often expanded for no rhyme or reason; and additionally, the number of students enrolling in the school was in steady decline. Together, these conditions resulted in an increased number of empty facilities and unused classrooms.
On my third day of school, I had discovered that I could enter one of the rooms on the left side of this building. Because I was just exploring around the school, I tried turning the handle. And after a *kra kra* sound, the door just opened. Later, I figured out that by pressing the door handle diagonally downwards to the right and turning it forty-five degrees, the lock would open.
In the room, there was a tall metal rack, a locker and an old study desk. The walls were lined with a sound absorbent material that had many equally-spaced circular holes in it. And from the marks left on the floor, one could deduce that this place had previously housed a piano. But now, the only thing that could be labeled as school equipment was a mini audio system next to the desk.
Actually, this high school was my father's alma mater. I had once heard from him that this school used to have a music club, but it was abolished not long after he graduated. He used to say half-jokingly, "My batch of students had poor conduct, so the school got rid of it." Then again, that might have very well been true.
There was a huge perk to having the sound absorbers there—I could bring a huge stack of my CDs into the room and listen to my favorite songs as loudly as I liked. It was a good way to kill time after school, and if I were at home, my father would definitely be blasting his classical music records, resulting in me not having a place where I could enjoy my music in peace.
Since the condition of the room wasn't too great, the sound proofing wasn't perfect. I had to stuff a towel in the gaps around the door before I could turn on the audio system. On that day, the first CD I listened to was the live album by Bob Marley, which put me in a reggae mood. I was probably being affected by what Chiaki had said.
"Isn't your life just boring then?"
I had never thought about that. Then again, it'd be quite a headache for me if my life was deemed boring just because I didn't join a club. Isn't this just fine—you can consider it to be a music appreciation club! And I'm not causing trouble for anyone either. Sure, I'm using this room without prior approval, but this classroom seemed to be out of use for a long period of time anyway. Plus, I'm also keeping the classroom clean; so as long as I ensure that no one outside can hear the music I'm playing, it should be fine, right?